SAALT, Partners, Members of Congress Hold Vigil on Hate Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Today in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT), a nation­al South Asian civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tion, along with part­ner orga­ni­za­tions and Mem­bers of Con­gress, held a vig­il on the steps of the Capi­tol to hon­or the vic­tims of hate vio­lence in South Asian, Sikh, Mus­lim, Hin­du, and Arab com­mu­ni­ties nation­wide. The vig­il was a col­lec­tive moment to mourn the injuries and loss of life our com­mu­ni­ties have suf­fered and to also demand just laws, poli­cies, and lead­er­ship in response to increas­ing vio­lence against our com­mu­ni­ties.

“At a time when South Asian, Sikh, Mus­lim, Hin­du, and Arab com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers are fac­ing hate vio­lence and harass­ment on near­ly a dai­ly basis, we need real lead­er­ship from Wash­ing­ton to stem the tide of injus­tice,” stat­ed Suman Raghu­nathan, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT. “Wait­ing near­ly a week before com­ment­ing on a dead­ly shoot­ing in Kansas won’t do it. Issu­ing a sec­ond tox­ic Mus­lim Ban won’t do it. We need direct action from this admin­is­tra­tion to forge inclu­sion, jus­tice, and hope in this quin­tes­sen­tial nation of immi­grants. SAALT will con­tin­ue fight­ing for laws and poli­cies that light a path toward a just and inclu­sive future for us all.”

In recent weeks three Indi­an men and one Sikh man, either per­ceived as Mus­lim or as a result of anti-immi­grant sen­ti­ment, were shot, with two of the vic­tims ulti­mate­ly dying of their injuries. In two of the cas­es the assailants screamed at their vic­tims to leave the U.S. and go back to their coun­tries before open­ing fire. The nation has also wit­nessed spikes in mosque burn­ings, van­dal­ism, and an increas­ing wave of intim­i­da­tion aimed at our com­mu­ni­ties nation­wide.

This recent vio­lence is part of a ris­ing tide of hate tar­get­ing our com­mu­ni­ties. SAALT’s lat­est report, “Pow­er, Pain, Poten­tial,” doc­u­ments over 200 inci­dents of hate vio­lence and xeno­pho­bic polit­i­cal rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Mus­lim, Sikh, Hin­du, Arab, and Mid­dle East­ern Amer­i­cans dur­ing the 2016 elec­tions, with an astound­ing 95% of inci­dents moti­vat­ed by anti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ment. Notably Pres­i­dent Trump was respon­si­ble for 21% of the xeno­pho­bic polit­i­cal rhetoric we tracked.

The Pres­i­den­t’s response to the attacks against our com­mu­ni­ties has been woe­ful­ly inad­e­quate. His dan­ger­ous rhetoric and destruc­tive poli­cies have fanned the flames of vio­lence that we’ve expe­ri­enced in recent weeks and months. SAALT calls upon the Pres­i­dent to reverse course and lead our nation down a path of jus­tice, inclu­sion and equal­i­ty for all Amer­i­cans. This is the moment for our nation to come togeth­er, and SAALT will con­tin­ue to fight until our coun­try has reached that impor­tant goal.

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Mem­bers of Con­gress who joined the vig­il includ­ed Con­gress­woman Prami­la Jaya­pal (D‑WA), Con­gress­man Ami Bera (D‑CA), Con­gress­man Joe Crow­ley (D‑NY), and Con­gress­man Ro Khan­na (D‑CA).

Part­ner orga­ni­za­tions include: Amer­i­can-Arab Anti-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mit­tee (ADC), Arab Amer­i­can Insti­tute (AAI), Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR), Desis Ris­ing Up & Mov­ing (DRUM), Indi­as­po­ra, MPow­er­Change, Nation­al Coun­cil of Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­cans (NCAPA), Nation­al Net­work For Arab Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ties (NNAAC), Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense & Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF), and Sikh Coali­tion.

Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY)
“I feel very strong­ly that there needs to be more love, more accep­tance, more tol­er­ance now in the Unit­ed States than ever before, and I believe also that the vio­lence we’ve seen tak­en against peo­ple who don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly look like me is some­thing we all need to be con­cerned about. Whether you’re a South Asian, whether you’re a Mus­lim, whether you’re Jew­ish, whether you’re Chris­t­ian, whether you’re Hin­du, whether you’re Sikh, whether you’re Bud­dhist, it mat­ters not. An attack against one is an attack against all of us. The attack in Kansas did send a shiv­er down my spine, because I know that this is some­thing that unfor­tu­nate­ly has devel­oped because of hate rhetoric and hate speech that devel­oped dur­ing the cam­paign and has con­tin­ued after­wards. Pres­i­dent Trump not only has to speak out against this, he has to take action against this as well and put resources out there to ensure the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in the Unit­ed States is pro­tect­ed.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
“This is a very impor­tant moment. I have tremen­dous sym­pa­thy and con­do­lences for the fam­i­lies across the coun­try who are deal­ing with hate crimes and who are lit­er­al­ly suf­fer­ing at home, some­times in silence, unsure of whether they can go out or not. When we’ve seen spikes in hate crimes, it is incred­i­bly impor­tant for Mem­bers of Con­gress, but most impor­tant­ly for the Pres­i­dent, to speak out against this kind of hate vio­lence. But it does­n’t actu­al­ly mean any­thing unless the poli­cies fol­low that rhetoric, and that has been one of things that has been very trou­bling. One of the mes­sages I want to send to peo­ple who are out there lis­ten­ing is that Amer­i­ca is your coun­try, you belong here, and we will stand up to pro­tect your rights.”

Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA)
“These dis­turb­ing acts of vio­lence not only attack our com­mu­ni­ties, they are an assault on all Amer­i­cans. Attack­ing some­one based on where they come from or what they look like insults the very core of every­thing that we stand for as a nation of immi­grants. As a nation, we must stand up to these hate­ful attacks, which means dou­bling down on our com­mit­ments to safe­ty, equal­i­ty, and the Amer­i­can val­ues of lib­er­ty and jus­tice for all.”

Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA)
“I have a fun­da­men­tal belief in the good­ness and decen­cy of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. This is not a par­ti­san issue. I have had Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats approach me on the floor appalled by some of the recent acts of vio­lence. The coun­try must stand togeth­er against hate­ful words and actions, and we must pros­e­cute any hate crimes to the full extent of the law.”

Rajdeep Singh Jolly, Interim Managing Director of Programs, Sikh Coalition
“As we remem­ber Srini­vas Kuchib­hot­la and all those who have lost their lives and loved ones to hate, we demand that the White House cre­ate a fed­er­al task force to pre­vent hate vio­lence. Words are not enough. We need account­abil­i­ty and action.”

Yolanda Rondon, Esq., Staff Attorney, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
“The courage of the Arab Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty is unpar­al­leled. Hate attempt­ed to cre­ate fear but we dis­cov­ered our strength. We will not be divid­ed.”

Amrita Bamrah, SALDEF
“Today as we offer our thoughts and prayers to the vic­tims of hate vio­lence, SALDEF stands firm in its belief that the good­ness of our com­mu­ni­ties will pre­vail over hate, and we reaf­firm our com­mit­ment to stand­ing up for the rights of all com­mu­ni­ties in Char­di Kala (ever­last­ing opti­mism), with­out fear, and with­out hate.”

James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute
“Hate crimes are fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent than oth­er threats or acts of vio­lence because they tar­get entire com­mu­ni­ties, seek­ing to cause fear and intim­i­da­tion. I know from per­son­al expe­ri­ence when my office was fire-bombed, or when my life and that of my fam­i­ly and office col­leagues was threat­ened because we were Arab Amer­i­cans or because we advo­cat­ed for Pales­tin­ian rights. The intent was to silence and intim­i­date us and to spread fear through­out our com­mu­ni­ty. In this regard, hate crimes are a threat to our very demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem. Those who incite and cre­ate a cli­mate of intol­er­ance towards groups or caus­es con­tribute to cre­at­ing the envi­ron­ment from which haters spring. They are as much a threat as the per­pe­tra­tors of hate crimes them­selves.”

Robert S. McCaw, Director of Government Affairs Department, CAIR
“We are com­mu­ni­ties that are under attack, our hous­es of wor­ship are being van­dal­ized and burnt to the ground, our wor­shipers face death threats for attend­ing their sacred spaces, and many are afraid to go out in the pub­lic. We can­not remain silent. We can­not as a coun­try look the oth­er way. This is real. This is hap­pen­ing. This can­not be ignored. We need assur­ance from our gov­ern­ment that this will not con­tin­ue to occur as it is with­out any fore­see­able end. This is not the new nor­mal. As a nation we can­not allow it to be.”

Con­tact: Vivek Trive­di — vivek@saalt.org